Electric Cars – The future for disabled drivers?
Mobility for people with disabilities is a problem. Public transit still has problems with accessibility. It has improved over the years, but the ability to get in and out of the taxi’s, buses or trains is difficult, and once inside a seat is not always available. Wheelchair users have even more difficulty, as space is a premium, and able-bodied people rarely understand the constraints of having a physical handicap.
I have a car that gives me more freedom than most, but it also has limitations. They fit my car with hand controls that allow me to use my right hand to work the pedals. With one hand holding this lever, and the other on the steering wheel isn’t always ideal. The car is automatic which means I don’t have to use the gear stick. One less thing to think about.
Cars for disabled drivers are adapted with hoists, levers, swivel seats, and various other adjustments after you buy the car. These give us the ability to visit places that public transport doesn’t service. Allowing us to work, maintain independence and take part in life.
I think there is a huge change about to happen. The electric car is becoming mainstream and has the potential to change transport for disabled people. So, why do I think it is transformative? These cars are electrical, not mechanical. This means that the brake, accelerator, steering all work because of wires. That means that the steering doesn’t have to be a round wheel. Accelerator or brake do not need a pedal. A joystick could control the car. They can place this joystick on the left or right side of the driver, suiting the disability.
This is an amazing possibility for drivers. But the potential of self-driving cars is the holy grail. Once you are in the vehicle, you can use your voice, or keypad, to tell the car your destination, and it will bring you there. All the functions controlled by the on board computer, even parking. This means it can cater to every level of disability and the dependence on another person to help with your transport requirements will be gone or reduced.
Could it happen?
It almost seems Utopian. However, this is within sight. Tesla Motors (https://www.tesla.com/)is at the vanguard. The Model S and 3 would be suitable for non-wheelchair users (like me), and they could adapt the Model X (this is an SUV) for wheelchair users. There are a few things that, at the design stage, would make these vehicles the perfect cars for the disabled driver market. The cars could have a dashboard designed to fulfill the needs of most disabled users, either as drivers or passengers.
Electric cars have several advantages. The day-to-day running cost is small. Electricity is cheaper than fossil fuels per kilometer/mile traveled. The service costs are much smaller as the vehicle has less moving parts. One issue that many disabled people have is sensitivity to noise, and these cars are silent (this would be a huge asset for me). They charge the batteries at home which saves a trip. For disabled drivers with fatigue, this would save personal energy. Charging on a trip it takes time (20+ minutes) and this longer break can be useful when you have mobility problems.
What should happen next
A pilot study would have to be completed in a small market (such as Ireland) that would have the support of the manufacturer, government agencies and disability representatives. There are several economic issues that would need to resolved, as most people with disabilities are on a limited income, but the service should be available to everyone with a physical disability (driver or passenger).
Could something like this happen? I think so, and it would take someone to lead the project, that has the vision of creating accessible transportation for the disabled community. It would also act as an example of how electric cars are not just to save the environment they can offer transportation solutions that the traditional vehicle cannot achieve as elegantly.
Do you agree that this is possible? Would you drive an electric car? Let me know in the comments below. Thank you.
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